When I decide to write something that I’m unfamiliar with, would do poorly at, or don’t completely understand, I always feel a little…wary. This is definitely the case when I write anything about sports. Taking on a whole book that has a sport as a central topic, theme, or occupation is daunting when you’ve never done what your characters have.
I have to remind myself that I’ve also never created a bracelet out of various types of wire, worked on a car, been a cop, or any of the other things that my heroes or heroines might do. So how do authors make it authentic? Is Google enough? Do we have to create our very own version of method acting…method writing…where we take on that skill or persona? I’m not sure: I only know what I do.
I find the expert. Luckily for me, my husband knows an extremely vast and useless amount about sports. Like all sports. His favorites are football and basketball but all I’ve ever written about is baseball. I needed a back up information source.
Regardless of the profession my characters take on, I really do like to make it authentic and that’s always easier to do when you connect with someone who knows a topic from the inside out. For the jewelry making in Damaged, I chatted several times with a beautiful jewelry designer. For Hate to Love Him, where Brady is a mechanic, I asked my brother, a heavy duty mechanic, a lot of questions. For Covering All the Bases (as well as the other baseball books I’ve written), I ask a good friend who played and loves baseball.
The difference between Google and a person who’s walked in those shoes is they can tell you how something feels and describe it in a way a general definition found online can’t. In the snippet below, I’m able to give an authentic baseball reference and weave it into my story so that Liam’s character is more believable and more relatable. At least, that’s the hope.
“You need to stop being so damn cute, Isla,” Liam told her, his voice trickling over her skin like she imagined fingertips would.
When she inhaled, it was his masculine scent that filled her senses, clouding her vision. “Um, sorry?”
His hand came to her cheek as the television came on. “I’ve been bottom of the ninth, two out with a runner in scoring position and yet, not kissing you seems like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Her stomach and heart collided, knocking the air from her lungs. Her gaze shifted toward the kitchen, then back to him. “I’m guessing what you said there isn’t easy?”
Lips tilting, he lowered his hand, put some added, and necessary, distance between them. “Not even a little.”
I follow authors on social media who travel to places they write about or experiment with things their characters do in their books. While I’d like some of those experiences (I really want to go to Nashville where Covering All the Bases takes place), it’s not always easy to do. Connecting with people who have been in the shoes of my characters makes me feel like I’m creating a stronger story and it also gets me out of my writing vortex. I’ve connected with mechanics, DJs, police officers, horse trainers, and artists. My hope is that when a reader falls into one of my stories, the world is believable enough to pull them deeper and keep them fully immersed.
When you read a sports romance, how much sports do you want to see on the page?